Transportation is a critical link to opportunity, connecting people to jobs, schools, affordable housing, health care, grocery stores, and more. Modern, well-funded transportation systems can spur economic growth and tap into human potential. Achieving equity in transportation policy will bring about fundamental improvements in communities across the country.
Asheville provides public transportation through it Asheville Redefines Transit (ART) system. This system provides bus service from about 5:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday / Holidays 8:30 am – 6:30 pm, throughout the City of Asheville and to the Town of Black Mountain. Many routes start later on Saturday mornings and Rt 170 will operate until 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights. The management company for Asheville Redefines Transit is First Transit.
How much does it cost? $1.00 cash fare, $9 for an 11 ticket booklet, $20 for a month pass, and $220 for a year pass. There is a program called the “Passport Program” that is a discount fare program available to regional employers that offers employees a convenient option of riding transit without having to pay a fare with each ride. Participating employees only need to show their ID card or badge to board the bus.
Discount Fares are available to:
• Seniors – 65 years of age and older (only photo I.D. required). Also Mountain Mobility offers further discounts to eligible seniors, call (828) 250-6750, Option 5.
• Individuals with disabilities – See ADA Discounted Bus Pass Guidelines for furthe information. Complete ADA Discounted Bus Pass Application to determine eligibility. Forms are also available at the ART station.
• Medicare recipients (only Medicare Card required)
• Students ages 6-19
What is the Fare Free Zone? Riders can ride the bus for free along the downtown zone. This policy was in jeopardy of being eliminated, but with advocacy from local non-profit organizations, it will stay in place until June 2016 upon further review.
Who rides ART? There are about 1.4 million riders per year. About 63% of riders take ART because it’s their only option, and they do not have other forms of transportation. 43% of riders take the bus 6 days per week. 37% of riders have been riding for more than 5 years. Recent changes have been made to the bus system including rerouting, buses running on the half hour, etc. Among the best changes, operator courtesy was voted the best change – buses being on time was voted the worst change. On average, it takes riders more than one bus to get to their final destination.
Funding: Ridership alone does not begin to cover the costs of running the ART system. For FY 2012-2013, ART’s operating budget was $5 million. The entire Transit Fund revenue is derived from three primary sources: federal and state grant funding ($2.8 million), local tax support ($1.2 million), and passenger charges.
Children and Public Transportation:
Parents complain about the hassle. It can be rushed and often have them waiting in all kinds of weather at the bus stop. There’s occasional exposure to language and behavior not suitable for young ears and eyes. Sometimes they have to stow their groceries in small compartments in their stroller and/or have their child put the groceries in their small backpack because the bus driver does not want more than three grocery bags per person.
Some parents encounter hostility, both from fellow passengers and from drivers, and consequently feel intimidated and unwelcome. Most just feel overwhelmed as they try to juggle rules, fares, bags, strollers, and children.
Parents report that carrying children and their belongings is the biggest barrier to using transit, both for reasons of convenience and speed. This suggests that working parents would benefit from child care within walking distance from their homes or jobs, preferably with transit available to complete their trip. Parents could be concerned about the ability to reach their children in the event of an emergency, suggesting that guaranteed ride home programs (and awareness of them) could have a positive impact on transit usage. Asheville used to have such a program but it has been discontinued for unknown reasons.
Other Transit Considerations:
Factors such as vehicle access, household income, frequency of transit service, and the availability of free parking at work all affected rate of transit use. 49% of riders make an average of under $10,000 per year.
• Hours of need: There are especially serious problems for persons who work nights and weekends, and for those with non-standardized work hours. Some suggestions from riders have been that Sunday service, more frequency, and an all-night bus are among the most important improvements still needed to be implemented, with 50% of riders voting for a Sunday service (which was implemented with limited hours on January 1, 2015).
• Routes: Most existing metropolitan public transit routes are inadequate for reaching the new employment areas in suburbs (both from the inner city and suburb-to-suburb), and are very inadequate for parents who must also drop children off at one or more child care facilities on the way to and from work.
• Time: Riding ART can be very time-consuming especially in combination with child care drop-off and pick-up.
When budgets are cut, sometimes stops or even complete routes can be scrapped.
What People are Saying About Transportation Equity
“In some urban communities, a child’s world can be as small as the city block where he or she lives. Access to transportation can make the difference between a life circumscribed by geography and a world of unlimited experiences. Transportation can help urban America bridge the gap to a broader range of possibilities.” — National Urban League
“Children in low-income communities are more likely to walk to school and often face greater safety challenges on the trip to school. Transportation funds are critical in these communities to provide safe and low-cost alternatives to driving.” — Safe Routes to School National Partnership
[Taken from the Policy Link Transportation Equity Caucus http://equitycaucus.org/About/QuotesfromCaucus]
What are the major changes in transit ?
Since May 2012 there have been several changes to the transit service:
• Sunday service on limited routes started on January 4th, 2015
• Real time arrival information is provided with NextBus
• Frequency of the service on major transit corridors is increased to twice an hour
• Route changes to improve on-time performance
• You can use Google Transit to plan your routes
• New areas of service Additional recommended improvements and services are outlined in the Transit Master Plan.
• Find out more here
What can I do?
Send an Email to City Council
Ask city council to maintain funding to continue existing service – including last year’s expansion to Sunday service. Additionally, ask council to consider opportunities for expanded hours and service to connect to employment.
• Click here to send an E-mail to all City Council Members
Join Just Economics Transportation Campaign
Local non-profit, Just Economics, is seen as a leader in Transit Reform. Together with “non-elective bus riders” or riders with no other transportation options, they formed the People’s Voice on Transportation Equality. This group created the 19 Point People’s Agenda for Transportation.
This group is committed to bringing about changes to our transit system, and since it is made up of bus riders, they have a grasp of what the the primary challenges are. Currently, they are creating written Policy and Regulations for our transit system, as well as advocating for route reform, extended hours, and making it more accessible to bring groceries and strollers onto our buses. Find out more about this transit campaign and how you can become a part of it at www.justeconomicswnc.org/transportation-campaign.
Create a Letter to the Editor and Submit It to Local Media
Transportation is a critical link to opportunity, connecting people to jobs, schools, affordable housing, health care, grocery stores, and more. For many Americans, mobility can make all the difference in their ability to meet basic needs, participate fully in community life, and connect and contribute to our economy. Modern, well-funded transportation systems can spur economic growth and tap into human potential. (Please feel free to use this opening statement and any of the points or quotes above to help draft your letter. If there is room, please add one or two lines that reflect your personal experience with this issue.)
• To submit a Letter to the Editor to the Mountain Xpress: 300 word or less. Once letter is completed, Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org(plain-text e-mail only; no attachments or HTML).
• To submit a Letter to the Editor to the Asheville Citizen-Times: 200 words or less and complete submission form at http://archive.citizen-times.com/interactive/article/99999999/SERVICE/70305038/Submit-Letter-Editor
Attend City Transit Committee meetings
City Transit meetings happen on the first Tuesday from 3:30 – 5:00 PM at the City Hall first floor conference room. Attend the City Multimodal Transportation Commission meetings on the fourth Wednesdays at 3 PM at the City Hall first floor conference room. More info at http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/CityClerk/BoardsCommissions/MultimodalTransportationCommission.aspx
The Be sure you are registered to vote and that exercise your right in each election. View our resources at www.VoteBuncombe.org
This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent the root causes of poverty so all children can thrive. Get involved! Learn about action steps, volunteer opportunities, and help share these messages by going to www.facebook.com/SuccessEquation. To find more, go to www.successequation.org.